Thursday, 19 January 2017

2017 Walking Guide to Good Food & Cafes near Johor JB Customs

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I have many requests from Singapore readers for a guide to good food and cafes in JB near to the checkpoint as the old town is a haven for food lovers, cafe hoppers and street photographers. JB old town is alive with dynamism and energy - it is changing all the time with something new popping up regularly.

So, here is a simple guide and virtual tour of Johor Bahru old town - the part easily accessible on foot from the JB CIQ or City Square mall. 

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This is the sketch map of our route for the morning food and photo walk. This is only a rough sketch for general orientation. For precise navigation, please refer to Google map. We start at 8am and should complete the tour by early afternoon. 

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If you are a group, I suggest we meet here after clearing Johor immigration - at the Point kiosk and taxi stand opposite City Square mall along Jalan Tun Abdul Razak.

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Waiting here, we won't be obstructing traffic and there are steps we could sit on, if we are tired or want to conserve energy 😄

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When everyone has arrived, start our tour by turning to our left and walk along Jalan Tun Abdul Razak in the direction of Singapore. We will see the large City Square mall building on our right across the busy road.

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We will cross Jalan Tun Abdul Razak using this pedestrian bridge. It will be tempting to simply dash across the busy road but I suggest using this bridge for safety sake.

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The view from the overhead pedestrian bridge, looking south towards Singapore. On the left, the yellow building with the blue dome is the historic Johor Bahru railway station.

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Back at street level, continue south until the junction of Jalan Tun Abdul Razak and Jalan Station. Turn right and walk along Jalan Station.

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You will reach a signalised crossing at the junction of Jalan Station and Jalan Wong Ah Fook. Cross carefully here over to the Hong Leong bank side.

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Walk along Jalan Wong Ah Fook, heading south towards Singapore. Cross the side road at Jalan Siu Chin.

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Shortly, you will run into the long queue at Kam Long curry fish head - one of the most popular in JB. If you have plans for curry fish head and are early, I suggest you eat here first because the queue will only get longer. By lunch time, it will be very difficult to get seats, especially for large groups.

More on Kam Long curry fish head 👈 click

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After Kam Long curry fish head, continue south along Jalan Wong Ah Fook till the intersection with Jalan Siu Nam.

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Here, face right and cross Jalan Wong Ah Fook. That tall yellow and bluish building on your right is the Tokio Marine Life office.

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We will be crossing Sungai Segget which looks like a canal now, but this is a historic river in Johor Bahru. This is the view, looking north. That tall silvery blue building is the Public Bank office.

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Walking into Jalan Segget, this is the first restaurant you will see. It's on your left, Restoran Nur Tahara, a nasi Arab and nasi briyani shop. I haven't tried this new restaurant yet.

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On the right along Jalan Segget which is a short side road is Restoran Sekee. Inside is Ah Hua teochew kway teow soup stall. This is one of the oldest kway teow soup stalls in JB and they still simmer their pork stock over a charcoal stove. Worth a try to appreciate old school Teochew kway teow soup which is a staple comfort food among JB folks.

Read more about Ah Hua kway teow soup 👈 click

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Two doors from Sekee is Restoran Ya Wang which is famous for their herbal dang gui roast duck. Ya Wang is a consultant to the Dian Xiao Er chain of roast duck shops in Singapore shopping malls. Ya Wang's ducks are tender juicy and rich with pleasant dang gui flavour, but the browned skin is bathed with sauce making it wet and soft.

Read more about Ya Wang 👈 click

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After Wa Wang, from the open car park, head towards the row of shop houses with the ORIENT watch signboard.

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Two shops from the ORIENT watch shop is the Kok Yow Yong tea shop. The modernised shop front has taken away much of the charm of this century old tea shop but the old style herbal teas are still as cooling on sizzling Johor days.

Read more about Kok Yow Yong 👈 click

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After herbal tea, at Jalan Trus, turn to your left i.e. heading south. This is a narrow, very busy and congested road leading to the heart of old JB.

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At the end of the block along Jalan Trus is Restoran Hua Mui. This is an old school, iconic Hainanese kopitiam in JB old town. It serves a wide ranging menu of local favourites like nasi lemak, nasi goreng etc and Hainanese Western like their popular chicken chop and French toast. Their kopi is a must, needless to say.

Read more about Hua Mui 👈 click

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Hua Mui is at the junction of Jalan Trus and Jalan Dhoby. Looking across is Roost Cafe, one of JB's oldest established hipster joints. Jalan Dhoby is JB's hipster central with the most number of cafes on a single street.

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We stay on Jalan Trus for now, continuing south after Hua Mui you will see Qin Garden Kopitiam on the right side. It's a Hainanese coffee shop with old school coffee and kaya toast, and the most popular nasi padang stall in this part of town.

More about Qin Garden 👈 click

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A couple of shops down from Qin Garden is Shakespeare Milkshakes. I haven't tried this yet 😀

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Just beside Shakespeare is Restoran Kin Hua, a popular spot for Hainanese kopi, kaya toast and Must Try soft boiled kampung chicken eggs.

More on Kin Hua kopitiam 👈 click

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Kin Hua kopitiam is right at the junction of Jalan Trus and Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, the "culture street" of JB old town.

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From this junction, we turn to our left in the direction of the OCBC bank office. Here, we have the famous Teochew mee stall - Sang Heng kopitiam. Sang Heng kopitiam serves the Lao Tee style of Teochew mee which JB folks love. Sang Heng is one of only three stalls left that still serve this old style Teochew mee with handmade fish balls, robust prawn stock, blanched lean meat topping, lardy sauce etc. The well loved stall holder Ah Seng passed on in 2016 and the stall is now run by a relative.

More on Sang Heng Teochew mee 👈 click

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Back from Sang Heng, heading back up Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, is Ehhe Art Cafe which is directly opposite Kin Hua kopitiam. Ehhe has an eclectic menu of local favourites and popular "Western" dishes like pastas. They are most famous for their kampung chicken rice set. I also like their Pontian style white coffee with it's distinctive taste and aroma.

More on Ehhe Art Cafe 👈 click

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At the side of Ehhe Cafe, along Jalan Trus is a long stretch of wall art by Pauline, a passionate and talented local artist.

Read about Pauline 👈 click

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Right next to Ehhe Cafe is the legendary Hiap Joo bakery famous for their banana cakes and coconut buns. Hiap Joo's bakes are special because they are baked with a century old wood fired oven which imparts a smokiness to the cakes - something which only a wood fired oven can do.

Read more about Hiap Joo 👈 click

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Right beside Hiap Joo is Maco Vintage which serves very good crepe cakes.

Read more about Maco Vintage 👈 click

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On the side wall of Maco Vintage facing the open car park, there is a large wall mural also by Pauline. Car parking in this private lot is very limited and quite expensive.

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Directly opposite Maco Vintage is Tasty Bay, a Halal food court serving local favourites like mee rebus, nasi campur and kuih muih Melayu (Malay savoury and sweet snacks).

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Also at the car park is Chaiwalla, the pioneer container cafe here. They are popular for their chai lattes.

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Further up along Jalan Tan Hiok Nee at the junction with Jalan Pahang is the "Red House". It's originally a large home and now used for events like small exhibitions, flea marts and pop up food stands.

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On the walls facing Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, more of Pauline's inspired work. 

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Bev C is a fashion retail shop with a cafe two doors from the "Red House". It is popular for it's cream pies.

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Further up along Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, a Chinese "economic rice" stall serving boiled rice with home style side dishes.

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Across is Yong Lock Huang, a yong tau foo shop.

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Drums Cafe along Jalan Tan Hiok Nee.

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Amphawa Boat Noodle is right beside Drums Cafe along Jalan Tan Hiok Nee. This is their second outlet just opened in Nov 2016.

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This arch where Jalan Tan Hiok Nee intersects Jalan Bukit Timbalan marks the western end of "culture street".

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From Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, turn to your right to Jalan Bukit Timbalan, then at the junction with Jalan Dhoby turn right again and you are in JB's cafe alley 😃

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First stop, Salahuddin Bakery, another gem of JB old town. Like Hiap Joo, Salahuddin sports a near century old wood fired oven. Must try is their karipap, those old flaky triangle curry puffs with mutton and curried potato fillings.

More about Salahuddin Bakery 👈 click

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Across Jalan Dhoby from Salahuddin Bakery is IT Roo cafe which boasts "The Best Chicken Chops in Town" - an honour bestowed by The Star newspaper back in 2003.

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IT Roo is not a hipster cafe but an old school Hainanese Western eatery established decades ago.

Read more about IT Roo cafe 👈 click

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A few doors from Salahuddin is Koone, an ice cream parlour specialising in soft serves.

Read more about Koone 👈 click

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Back across the street opposite Koone is Sangkaya, another ice cream shop but specialising in coconut and nut flavours with their signature coconut ice cream.

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Interesting panel art just beside Sangkaya. JB old town is full of such interesting spots, just look out for it 😄

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The understated whitewashed facade of The Replacement Cafe.

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Garden themed Flowers in the Window cafe at Jalan Dhoby.

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Further down along Jalan Dhoby, we are back at Roost Cafe, a 1960s Bohemian themed cafe. It reminds me of San Francisco boutique knick knack shops.

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At the junction of Jalan Dhoby and Jalan Trus turn left heading north. We are now in JB's vibrant Little India.

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There are several saree and jewellery shops along Jalan Trus.

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Galleria @ Kotaraya mall at the junction of Jalan Trus and Jalan Ungku Puan. Here, we turn right and head back towards Jalan Wong Ah Fook across Sungai Segget.

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Arulmigu Rajamariamman Devasthanam temple. There is a row of colourful flower shops leading to the temple.

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Looking back at the old shop houses after crossing Sungai Segget from Jalan Ungku Puan.

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The queue was still long at Kam Long after our tour of old JB town. Luckily, we had our curry fish head right at the start 😃

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Take a nice walk along Sungai Segget in the direction of City Square mall.

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Cross Jalan Wong Ah Fook at the junction with Jalan Station.

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Back at Johor Bahru City Square mall (which is connected by bridges and covered walkways to the JB immigration checkpoint). Of course, we can do some last minute shopping here, if we still have time and energy 😄

Our food trail and photo walk (route 1) is complete 😄 This route covers only some shops and a small part of JB old town. There are other interesting sights and tastes in old JB town which I will cover in future walking trails.

Please give me your feedback on what must not be missed.

Enjoy your tour 😄

Thank you 😃

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👆Click on photo for full 100 hawker list

Return to Johor Kaki homepage.

16 comments:

  1. Hi Tony. Greatly appreciate you taking the time and trouble for doing this particular post, which surely benefit who happily are to visit a handful of the bountiful Stalls you visited in Johor Baru.

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    1. Thank you Cephas. I hope the guide is useful.

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  2. I think you should start a walking tour... maybe not yourself as you will be busy going around the country trying new stuff, probably you can hire someone that's familiar with the old town...

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  3. There are a few indian shops/restoran located there. You show try their food too... thanks for making the effort to introduce the food at downtown JB.

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    1. I have tried them. Thank you. Shall try again soon.

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  4. Are they open on the 5th day of chinese new year?

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  5. I'm amazed with the amount of eateries that we have around this area. Maybe being local had put me in an ignorant state even though I had frequent quite a few of the joints. Thanks Tony for the highlights and will try an patronise those outlets that I've not tried before.

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    1. Thank you Arthur. Hope you enjoy the food.

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  6. Thanks for the information. I haven't been to JB for 30 years. Next time in Singapore, my wife and I intend on doing this walking, eating tour :)

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    1. Thank you. Hope you will enjoy the walk.

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  7. Thanks Tony for the comprehensive guide! :) I remember there is an ice cream shop called The Ice Cream Project (31 Jalan Dhoby) next to Koone. It's the shop with a swing outside the entrance. Is that still around? Also, I realised your trail turns right towards Hindu Temple at junction where Galleria is, so Faculty of Caffeine (F.O.C.) isn't mentioned. Personally I thought F.O.C. is a cafe not to be missed though. ;)

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  8. Thank you Travelpenchant. I didn't see Ice Cream Project this time. Actually, this is a short half day version. I will do a longer full day version that goes up further north along Jalan Trus.

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  9. I did the walk, it took me 5 days to do it eating twice a day. Thank you I would never have found any of those places. The highlight for me was the herbal duck. Off the hook brother. To anyone who wants to do the walk, you don't need a guide. I had no issues at all and anyone will help you if you get lost. Don't just do the restaurants that have been written about either. I found some street stalls that I enjoyed too. Ohh and a last word don't be put off by looks. Looks can and are deceiving. I had the best time and it cost so little.

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  10. is the canal construction done? Previously I attempted to find a way across but gave up as i went all the way to jalan tun abdul razak rd without a way to cross over

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    1. It is completed. It is easy to cross over. Just be very careful as is a major road.

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